24 March 2008

Who is a Ger?

Now that the dust has settled some on the geirus issue, below, you will find links to four articles which address the Geirus policy recently agreed upon by the RCA and the Chief Rabbinate in Israel. Two of the articles are written by dayanim, one by a well known congregational Rabbi and another a collaboration between a Rosh Yeshiva and retired congregational Rabbi. I will leave the reader to digest and take into consideration the purpose, meaning, vision and intent of each of the essays. It is worth the time to read through all four to better understand the flow of American and Israeli Orthodoxy.

I have written in the past of what I believe is a need for more unity and a common "gate keeper" within Orthodoxy. It appears to me that in terms of Geirus, the policy concluded by the RCA and the Chief Rabbinate is a significant step forward in bringing the Jewish people together and to set realistic and attainable road marks to conversion to Judaism. It has been implied that the role of the congregational/local Rav has been jeopardized as a result of this policy. Nothing could be further from the truth. The Rav's role has been strengthened by having a better idea how to prepare the potential convert (knowing what is expected from various dayanim and which beis din is a better choice for any particular candidate) and will help organize the time frame needed to do so. Potential converts also see the path that has been set up for them which eliminates the black hole experience for which some gerim have complained. (one person going through gerius once confided to me, {paraphrased}to the goyim I am a Jew, to the Jews I am a goy, when does this end?). Bringing Orthodoxy to common standards within the range of universally acceptable halachic boundaries should be the interest, goal, mission and purpose of every Orthodox Jew. Preventing the proverbial "I thought I was a Jew until...." conundrum should be the driving impetus.

(4 March 08) Conversion deal with Chief Rabbinate could diminish a major Jewish rift

(5 March 08) The Chief Rabbinate-RCA Deal: Two Views (Taking power away from the rabbis. Rabbi Marc Angel, and Rabbi Avi Weiss. Special to The Jewish Week)

Myths and Facts about the RCA's GPS - Geirus Policies and Standards
Mar 13, 2008 -- by Steven Pruzansky
Rabbi, Congregation Bnai Yeshurun in Teaneck, New Jersey
Treasurer, Rabbinical Council of America
Member, RCA's Geirus Policies and Standards Committee
Rosh Beit Din of the Beit Din L’Giyur in Bergen County, NJ.

An additional article to note in working through the conversion discussion:
Rabbis Form New Orthodox Organization

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What Words Offend Arabs? The Truth.

Children's Poetry Booklet Recalled After Arabs Complain
(Israeli censorship kowtows to Arabs.
When Will We Tell The Truth Without Fear)

(IsraelNN.com 7 Sivan 5768/June 10, '08) Ynet's web site and Arab complaints against a ten-year-old boy's poem about terrorists has resulted in the recall of all of the Nes Ziona municipality's children's poetry booklets.

Ynet boasts that its coverage of the poem resulted in its being recalled.

The text of the poem (Ynet's translation):

Ahmed's bunker has surprises galore: Grenades, rifles are hung on the wall. Ahmed is planning another bombing!What a bunker Ahmed has, who causes daily harm.Ahmed knows how to make a bomb. Ahmed is Ahmed, that's who he is, so don't forget to be careful of him.We get blasted while they have a blast!Ahmed and his friends could be wealthy and sunny, if only they wouldn't buy rockets with all their money.

Poetry competition director Marika Berkowitz, who published the booklet, was surprised at the protests and told Ynet: "This is the boy's creation and this is what he wanted to express. Of course there should be a limit, but I think the there is no racism here. 'Ahmed' is a general term for the enemy. These are the murmurings of an innocent child."

The Education Ministry told Ynet: "The local authority that published the booklet should have guided the students in a more correct manner through the schools. The district will investigate the issue with the local authorities."
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